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Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

Maturity may come at any age and time in a person’s life. One moment he or she may be a carefree child, and then suddenly realize that they have been transformed into a mature adult by a powerful and traumatic experience. An experience they will remember their whole lives. In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the adolescence of Jem and Scout is threatened one fateful night by a dangerous man bent on taking their lives. After this startling experience, they were never the same again. As a result, they rapidly matured into adults.

Similarly, young David Hayden, the narrator of Montana 1948 by Larry Watson, also encounters an equally traumatic event. He discovers that his uncle has been sexually assaulting Native American women in his town. This is a heavy burden for a twelve year old boy, especially since it reveals that his beloved Uncle Frank is the “bad-guy”. However, one discovers, as the novel develops, that David matures and grows in order to deal with this situation. He must come to understand what has happened and how the immoral actions of Frank will affect his family and its name.

But most importantly, he must know that his integrity will be changed. He will learn shocking things that would mean nothing to a child, but everything to an adult. Larry Watson suggests that traumatic experiences transform children into adults. Therefore, disturbing experiences lead to changes of mind, growth in morals, and an emerging sense of adulthood. David changes his mind about Uncle Frank through the traumatic experiences regarding the discovery of Frank’s secret actions. Uncle Frank used to be David’s idol and David adored him.

But that all changed when David’s housekeeper and baby sitter, Marie Little Soldier, becomes violently ill and is in need of a doctor. Wes Hayden, David’s father, calls his brother Frank, who is the town doctor, to come and see her. Strangely enough, Marie Little Soldier refuses to be alone in the room with Frank. Later on, Marie tells David’s mother horrible things that Frank has been doing to Native American women. David’s mother, Gail, tells Wes as David overhears. She says, ‘ ‘Wesley, your brother has been raping these women. These girls.

These Indian girls…’ [David states] I was beginning already to think of Uncle Frank as a criminal…Charming, affable Uncle Frank was gone for good’; (47, 49). David always thought goodly of his uncle, until he heard these ghastly statements. All the attractiveness and appeal of Frank dissipated once David learned of his filthy behavior. David knew this information would change him forever. He takes another step toward adulthood by hearing and understanding what his uncle has done. David also knows that his opinion of Frank is changing. Young David Hayden grows in morals due to the shocking events of the summer of 1948.

Consequently, David learns a great lesson about morals from all the episodes that occur. Marie is found dead a few days after Frank goes in to see her. Frank claims she died of pneumonia. David’s next door neighbor, Daisy McAuley, goes to their house to comfort Gail. Daisy treats David maternally and wants him to leave the ‘scene of the crime. ‘; So she tell him to go over to her house and have a piece of pie. While he’s there, David encounters the deputy sheriff, Len McAuley. Len is drunk and reveals the fact that he thought he saw Frank walking into David’s house a little while before Marie was found dead.

David discloses this and the fact that, he too, saw Frank. David confesses to his parents, ‘ …While I was sitting there I saw someone cutting across our backyard. There’s a knothole you can see out of. I was pretty sure it was Uncle Frank. Then I got out and watched him go down the tracks. He was going toward town…’; (97). After receiving the shock of knowing his uncle is a fiend, David experiences a growth in morality. He chooses to tell his parents what he knows, or at least part of what he knows, about Uncle Frank. This shows that he is developing in the area of honesty.

Before, David would have kept all this to himself, rather than face his parents with knowledge he knows will displease them. Through dreadful experiences, David feels an emerging sense of adulthood. David and his parents are not on good terms with David’s grandparents because Wes locked Frank in his basement. Julian, David’s grandfather, is very unhappy that Wes would lock up his own brother despite the fact that Wes saves Frank the humiliation of going to jail. David faces an even more intimidating threat when he notices that a few of the hired hands from his grandfather’s ranch come to his house to try and break Frank free.

He comments, ‘ These men must have figured, with Grandpa’s help, that Frank was in the basement, and that rear door was the way they were going in after him…’; (132). David is close to being an adult because he realizes how he must act and the gravity of the situation in which he and his family are involved. By now, David has issued forth a sense of development and maturity. He is far from the child who once looked forward to visits from his uncle and visits to his grandfather’s ranch. As an adult, he is concerned with the welfare of his family and his parents’ well being, emotionally.

David exemplifies this and stands by his family when they are in need. He does not desert them or feel shameful. He stays loyal and true to those he cares for and loves. Thus, he has shown his ability to act as an adult would. One can never be too sure when the innocence of childhood is lost, the sure thing is that everyone becomes an adult eventually, and that’s when they lose their innocence. In many cases, this change from child to adult is a harsh one, often it is the realization that the world is not perfect.

The shootings at Columbine is just one example. Those children were faced with the severe reality that death does not apply only to older people, but to anyone in the world. This revelation caused many of them to cease their immaturity and become an adult. And it was a very difficult task for many of them. One must be careful for corruption rears its ugly head where you least expect it. The loss of innocence signifies a person’s metamorphosis from a child to an adult. Therefore, it is the events and happenings in life that trigger this change.

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